SHCC WYSIWYG Article from November 2014

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the November 2014 WYSIWYG newsletter.

The NSA and USB 3.0

by Don VanSyckel

What did you think of last months presentation on the NSA? Pretty scarey, if you were listening. Do you really want Google to track your web searches for the rest of your life? While we're on it, Gmail is also Google's and the rumor is they save all Gmail email. So some nameless low level computer operators in some locations around the country have access to all your emails and searches. Have you ever watched any TV? No matter how much get technology is used in the security system, the weak link is always a person. They feel wronged or slighted or they just plan have their hand out. Then there's the fed's monitoring various communications. Add to this hackers seem to be everywhere trying to break into just about everything.

Last month I discussed some features of USB 2 and 3. I covered USB peripheral speeds, namely thumb drives. Do you know how laptops mark USB 2 and USB 3 ports? We've all seen the three prong network logo on USB ports or on USB cable plugs. On laptops a USB 3 port has an "SS" next to the USB logo. "SS" stands for Super Speed. I don't know why "SS" instead of a "3". If anyone happens to run across the reason, send a note to me. While a USB 3 port is backwards compatible with USB 2, it appears that full USB 3 between the computer and peripheral has additional features not in USB 2. When you get a peripheral with USB 3, make sure to use the cable that comes with it.

There is another feature that some laptops have. If a USB port has a lightening bolt next to it, that port is capable of supplying more power than the standard USB port. You have to refer to the documentation of that particular laptop for how much power the port will supply. Some peripherals such as external drives and scanners can be powered via the USB cable and the high power port is the place where it should be plugged into.

I have not seen USB port markings such as "SS" or a lightening bolt on desktop computers. I don't know if any desktops are marked, but I haven't seen any. The high power port isn't as needed on a desktop because most peripherals come with a 120VAC power adapter that you plug in where you plug the desktop in. The point of a laptop is to be able to use it where there is no power. This means that there is no 120 VAC power for the peripheral either. The peripheral needs to operate from the laptop battery via the USB port. The downside of doing this is more draw on the battery discharges it in a shorter time. How much shorter depends on the battery size and the power draw of the peripheral.

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